My first orange wine confused me. I was new to skin-contact wine, so when the bottle arrived, I threw it in the fridge before pouring a sample. It appeared light amber-ish gold in the glass and came out of the fridge chilled like a white wine. But each sip tasted bitter and dead on the palate. The tannins were tacky and sticky, and my tongue seemed papered to the roof of my mouth. \n\n\n\nI\u2019ve since learned from my mistakes. Back then, skin-contact wines were still a bit of a novelty in the U.S., but today they are mainstays on lists in New York and West Coast cities, as well as smaller markets. So why are so many places still serving them wrong? \n\n\n\nBy wrong, I mean serving them like I once had: ice cold.\n\n\n\nOrange wines can sometimes look like a white wine, because it's made from white grapes and retains much of their coloring. As a result, the instinct is often to serve a glass of orange wine in the white wine range of 45 to 55\u00b0F, rather than like a red at slightly cooler than room temperature, around 58 to 68\u00b0F. \n\n\n\nBut orange wines are made with techniques used for red wine, which allows grapes extended contact with their skins before vintners press off the juice.\n\n\n\nGetty Images\n\n\n\n\u201cI think of orange much more in the camp of light-bodied red than I do white, and I think that people need to untrain their brains to think that a white grape equals treatment as a white wine,\u201d says Brianne Day, former Wine Enthusiast 40 under 40 Tastemaker and owner of Day Wines. She makes three orange wines\u2014Tears of Vulcan, Vin de Days l'Orange and Zibibbo. \n\n\n\n\u201cThat kind of grittiness that you get sometimes from skin contact, with some kinds of grapes, can be off-putting in some circumstances and temperatures," says Day. "Coldness can exacerbate that."\n\n\n\nDay believes barrel-aged whites, most reds and many orange wines are best in that cool cellar temperature range of 55 to 58\u00b0F, though if a wine is low in astringency and tannins, she says it\u2019s suited to be chilled cooler. But take her Tears of Vulcan, which is typically around 40% Pinot Gris. It's better served at a warmer temperature. \n\n\n\n\u201cPinot Gris, when it's on skins, oftentimes we get quite a lot of tannin and the particular site that I work with is pretty tannic. So, I wouldn't go as cold with that one because all you're going to notice when you drink it is the tannins and the astringency,\u201d says Day. \u201cIt\u2019s kind of like \u2026 if you got a Nebbiolo that has a lot of tannin to it and you were to chill it down, you wouldn't even really be able to taste the wine because it would just be sucking all the moisture out of your mouth. I kind of treat the orange wine similar to that.\u201d \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nKate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, owners of Pittsburgh\u2019s Apteka restaurant, also argue for serving skin-contact wines at just cooler than room temperature. They\u2019ve had natural wines and orange wines on the list since Apteka opened in 2016. \n\n\n\n\u201cWhether it's light-bodied reds or oranges, typically we\u2019ve pushed the envelope,\u201d says Skowronski. He prefers to serve orange wines at the upper end of the optimal temperature window, closer to 65\u00b0F. \u201cThat\u2019s especially true for bigger oranges, where those tannins are a little bit more aggressive as it gets colder, and then you don't have the levity of the nose to kind of lift it up.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0\n\n\n\nGetty Images \n\n\n\nLasky and Skowronski say they\u2019ve especially noticed that when it comes to Georgian and certain Austrian wines, aromatics are really only accessible above a certain temperature threshold. Lasky reflects back several years to a bottle of Grauburgunder from a favorite producer\u2014a wine she estimates spent a week to 10 days on the skins. \n\n\n\n\u201cIt looks beautiful; it's this really nice, pink hue,\u201d she reminisces. \u201cWe threw it in the fridge and drank it cold and it tasted really bitter and horrible\u2026 bitter and boring. And then, you know, two hours later it\u2019s like this bright [wine]. It was still not a super aromatic wine, but before it was like, you had nothing.\u201d \n\n\n\nGeorgia, with its 8,000 years of winemaking history, arguably has a better handle on the issue of service temperature for orange wines than other wine-drinking cultures. That's because many of its wines, including its qvevris\u2014wines fermented and aged below ground in traditional enormous clay vessels known as qvevri\u2014come with recommended cellar and service temperatures written on the back label. That\u2019s especially true for qvevri amber wines, the preferred Georgian term for \u201corange\u201d wines. \n\n\n\nWhile a qvevri does benefit from a little bit of chilling, it shouldn't be served at temperatures as low as 40 to 45\u00b0F, says Noel Brockett, president of importer Georgian Wine House. Instead, it should be somewhere between 55 and 63\u00b0F. \n\n\n\n\u201cIf it is a qvevri wine, if it is an amber wine\u2014it needs to be treated like a red wine,\u201d says Brockett. \u201cIts complexity of bouquet, the progression of phenolic and tannins in the glass, are helped by a warmer temperature.\u201d If one serves a qvevri or amber wine five or 10\u00b0F cooler than cellar temperature, the consumer\u2019s experience of the wine is closed off.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\n\n\n\nGetty Images\n\n\n\n\u201cBasically, what happens when you chill a wine is that the aromatic qualities, the volatile molecules, are not as warmed up. Even if you swirl the glass, those things are not being released at that temperature,\u201d he explains. \n\n\n\nWith amber wines, it\u2019s essential to get the aromatics up front. \u201cThose are the kind of sweet-ish tea aromas, [which are a] little bit rustic\u2014you need to get those aromas, to get your nose aligned,\u201d says Brockett. \u201cThe wines actually kind of play this little trick on you where you feel like you're going to get something sweet and then, when it gets onto the palate, it has this dry, tannic finish. Do it at the wrong temperature and you get no aromatics; it kind of smells flat. And then, all you've experienced is dry tannin, and that is just not what amber wines are meant to be.\u201d \n\n\n\nGoing forward, these restaurateurs, importers and winemakers hope more people will serve skin-contact whites closer to cellar temperature\u2014more in line with, say, a Pinot Noir than a Pinot Gris. After all, if the customer\u2019s first, second or even fifth introduction to an orange wine is a bitter, tacky experience that leaves their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth without a hint or hope of flowers or herbs, why would they come back for a second glass?\n\n\n\nFor more details on the optimal serving temperatures for different wines, check out our cheat sheet for serving wine.